Clamor for Driver’s Licenses Bill Reaches Albany

Demonstrators in Albany ask for driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. (Photo via El Diario)

Leaders of a broad pro-immigrant coalition and several state legislators staged a protest yesterday in Albany to urge the New York State legislature to pass a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, and to include the measure in the next budget.

The pressure from activists comes only two weeks before the next budget approval, which is being debated between the state senate and assembly.

The Green Light NY coalition, which promoted the mobilization to the state capital, (…) joined the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Luis Sepúlveda and Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, as well as other co-sponsors and people affected by the current ban.

Before the Albany march, the Brooklyn and Bronx district attorneys, Eric González and Darcel Clark respectively, supported the driver’s license bill, citing public safety and human dignity.

“It’s time for Gov. Cuomo and the legislature to back up with real action their rhetoric that New York protects its immigrants,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

(…) Activists pointed out that 12 states, including Utah, currently issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

“I was forced to drive without a license for years when I was undocumented,” said Diana López, organizer at Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson. “Hundreds of thousands of people still have no option but doing the same every day. The families of undocumented immigrants need to drive to their jobs, to visit their doctors, to send their kids to school. Making sure that all drivers can pass the test and be insured is simply a matter of common sense.”

(…) Emma Kreyche, organizing and advocacy coordinator at the Worker Justice Center of New York, said it is simply impossible to expect people to survive in rural and suburban communities without access to a car.

“Nobody should have to risk being arrested and face a possible deportation because of a routine traffic stop. Undocumented people deserve dignity… They are not asking for special treatment, just the opportunity to learn the rules of driving, pass a test, then register and insure their vehicle just like the rest of us,” said Kreyche.

According to New York State immigration manager Eddie Taveras, giving undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses could generate an estimated $57 million in new state revenue every year.

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